Declare Abroad the Kingdom of God
“Let the dead bury their dead, but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.”—LUKE 9:60.
1. What important questions are raised by Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:60?
THE Kingdom of God—that was the most important interest in Jesus’ life! It is the same today for all of us who are his true footstep followers. As Christians, we are striving to follow Jesus’ steps closely by living according to the Bible. (1 Peter 2:21) But now, as we enter the year 1986, could it be that we need to reexamine our priorities in life? For instance, how would you explain Jesus’ telling someone to “let the dead bury their dead”? Why do you think that Jesus then stressed the importance of declaring the Kingdom message, in contrast to what would seem to be appropriate family concerns? What do you say?
2. When did Jehovah’s sovereignty start, and how enduring is it?
2 Long before Jesus used the expression “the kingdom of God,” the psalmist David wrote under divine inspiration: “Jehovah himself has firmly established his throne in the very heavens; and over everything his own kingship has held domination.” (Psalm 103:19) Jehovah’s sovereignty started when he began his creation. The foundation of his throne can never be moved. His right to universal sovereignty can never be snatched away from him. Little wonder that a psalmist exhorts: “Declare among the nations his glory, . . . for Jehovah is great and very much to be praised”!—Psalm 96:3, 4; 109:21; Daniel 4:34, 35.
3. (a) What events led up to a challenge of Jehovah’s rulership? (b) How does God purpose to settle the issue of universal sovereignty?
3 However, not all have continued to praise Jehovah. Satan, the first apostate, challenged the way that Jehovah had expressed and exercised His sovereignty toward His creatures on earth. (Genesis 3:1-5; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-5) As a result, on earth and later in heaven, some creatures became infected with Satan’s rebellious attitude. Satan also influenced men to set up a series of human kingdoms. He has used these to challenge the rightness of God’s rulership. (Revelation 13:1-6) To settle this issue of universal sovereignty, Jehovah purposed something unusual, as foretold at Daniel 2:44: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”
Jehovah Becomes King Over Israel
4. In what sense could David say that “Jehovah himself has become king,” and what did such an event call forth?
4 It therefore now becomes clear that, although Jehovah’s sovereignty dates from his commencing creation, he purposed to make a specific expression of his rulership to settle forever the question of the rightfulness of his sovereignty. This expression was the heavenly Messianic Kingdom. The earthly kingdom that Jehovah established over the nation of Israel served as a small-scale representation of this Kingdom “that will never be brought to ruin.” Hence, when King David brought the ark of the covenant into the city of Jerusalem, he was able to sing exultantly: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be joyful, and let them say among the nations, ‘Jehovah himself has become king!’” (1 Chronicles 16:31) Yes, in a special sense Jehovah had “become king” for all Israel. It was a time of great joy, and David wanted to declare abroad that wonderful event!
5, 6. (a) In what respect was David unique among kings? (b) Whom did David foreshadow, and in what respect?
5 King David’s shepherding background laid the basis for his being a unique king among kings. He was a shepherd-king. The psalmist describes David’s being chosen by God for this position, saying: “[Jehovah] chose David his servant and took him from the pens of the flock . . . to be a shepherd over Jacob his people and over Israel his inheritance. And he began to shepherd them according to the integrity of his heart, and with the skillfulness of his hands he began leading them.”—Psalm 78:70-72.
6 David’s shepherding care for his people, his integrity of heart toward his God, and his skillfulness as a leader well qualified him to portray the coming Messiah, who was to be used in a special way to express Jehovah’s universal kingship and to act as a loving Shepherd-King. This wonderful development in Jehovah’s purposes was later foretold by the prophet Ezekiel: “I will raise up over [Israel] one shepherd, and he must feed them, even my servant David. . . . And I myself, Jehovah, will become their God, and my servant David a chieftain in the midst of them. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.”—Ezekiel 34:22-24.
The Foretold Shepherd-King Appears
7, 8. (a) How was the foretold Shepherd-King identified, and what did his appearance deserve? (b) For what purpose was Jesus “approved” by Jehovah?
7 The One foretold by Jehovah was his own Son, Jesus. Concerning him, the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary: “Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:31-33) What a wonderful expression of Jehovah’s kingship this was going to be! Surely, such a coming event would warrant the greatest worldwide declaration: “Jehovah himself has become king!”
8 Following Jesus’ miraculous birth and his growth to manhood, he presented himself for baptism in the waters of the river Jordan. At that time God acknowledged Jesus as his Son by pouring out spirit upon him and saying: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.” (Luke 3:22) For what was Jesus “approved”? Luke’s account explains: “Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old.” (Luke 3:23; Ref. Bi. footnote: “Or, ‘commenced [to teach].’”) The Revised Standard Version and the New International Version say, “When he began his ministry.” What was Jesus’ “work,” or “ministry”? What did he “teach”? The writer Matthew gives the answer: “[Jesus] went around throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people.”—Matthew 4:23.
9. In what respects was Jesus like his forefather David?
9 Jesus devoted his life to ‘declaring abroad the kingdom of God.’ Like his forefather David, he demonstrated his integrity of heart by never compromising his allegiance to Jehovah’s Kingdom. (Luke 9:60; 4:3-13; John 16:33) Jesus proved himself to be that “one shepherd” whom Jehovah had promised to raise up. He was happy to feed spiritually those whom the religious leaders had “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Regarding his skilled work of shepherding people and how it would gradually widen out in years to come, Jesus said: “I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.”—John 10:14, 16.
10. How can we learn from the varied reactions of the Jews to Jesus’ invitation to follow him?
10 How did the Jews react to Jesus’ invitation to become his sheeplike followers? Their reactions were varied. As we examine some of these reactions, consider what your response has been since coming in contact with the message of God’s Kingdom.
“Be My Follower”—How Do You Respond?
11. Describe the response of Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew to Jesus’ invitation, “Come after me.”
11 While Jesus was walking near the Sea of Galilee, he spotted Simon and his brother Andrew fishing. “Jesus said to them: ‘Come after me, and I shall cause you to become fishers of men.’ And at once they abandoned their nets and followed him. And after going a little farther he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother . . . and . . . he called them. In turn they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and went off after him.” (Mark 1:16-20) The same positive reaction was shown by tax collector Levi, or Matthew. “[Jesus] said to him: ‘Be my follower.’ And leaving everything behind he rose up and went following him.”—Luke 5:27, 28.
12. What was the problem with the man who told Jesus: “I will follow you to wherever you may depart”?
12 However, not all reacted positively to Jesus’ invitation, “Be my follower.” Think of that man described in Luke chapter 9, whom Jesus met while traveling from one village to another. He said to Jesus: “I will follow you to wherever you may depart.” Matthew’s account indicates that this man was a scribe. The scribes were looked up to by the people and were called “Rabbi.” Now notice Jesus’ reply: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Luke 9:57, 58) Jesus was telling this man that he would have to rough it if he became His follower. The implication is that this man was too proud to accept this mode of life. The uncertainty of not knowing where he was going to spend the next night was too much for him to take.
13. Why did Jesus reply the way he did to another who could have become a follower?
13 Jesus said to another bystander: “Be my follower.” But, in reply, he said to Jesus: “Permit me first to leave and bury my father.” Note Jesus’ reply: “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59, 60) This man’s excuse did not imply that his father had already died. If he had died, it would have been very unlikely that the son would have been on that road listening to Jesus. No, it would appear from what the man said that he was bidding for time to await his father’s death. He was not prepared to put the Kingdom of God first in his life immediately.—Matthew 6:33.
14, 15. (a) What is indicated in the third man’s request to Jesus? (b) What lesson can we today learn from Jesus’ reply to this man?
14 The record tells of a third man, who volunteered: “I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those in my household.” This man was apparently asking for conditions to be attached to his becoming a follower of Jesus. He was, in effect, saying to Jesus: ‘Look! I will be one of your followers, if . . .’ What was Jesus’ answer? “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61, 62) When a plowman wants to turn over a straight furrow in the field, he must keep looking straight ahead. If he turns his head to look behind, that furrow will likely become crooked. He might even trip himself! So it is with Jesus’ footstep followers; for them to look behind at this old system of things, even for a moment, is to court trouble, causing their feet to stumble and wander off the ‘cramped road leading off into life.’—Matthew 7:14; see Luke 17:31-35.
15 Have you heard Jesus’ invitation: “Be my follower”? What has been your response? Have you shown the same positive response as the disciples Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew? Like those men, are you prepared to make any sacrifice needed in order to follow the Master’s footsteps? If your answer is yes, then you will also enjoy the inestimable privilege of sharing in declaring abroad the good news of God’s Kingdom.
16. How did Jesus prepare his disciples for sharing with him in preaching the good news?
16 Before Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom, he skillfully taught them how to do so by his own personal example. Following this, Jesus gave them detailed instructions on how to search out sheeplike ones in any given territory. Jesus’ instructions are still applicable in this 20th century. Let us examine some of these as recorded in chapter 10 of Matthew’s account.
17. Compare the substance of the Kingdom message preached in the first century with that of today.
17 The theme of the disciples’ message was to be the same as the one Jesus had been proclaiming: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 10:7) However, that Kingdom has now been established in the heavens. Jehovah’s Shepherd-King, Christ Jesus, now rules! Hence, the words of David now take on a greater meaning: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be joyful, and let them say among the nations, ‘Jehovah himself has become king!’” (1 Chronicles 16:31) Today, not only are we privileged to support this special expression of Jehovah’s universal kingship but we also have the joy of living in the time when the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty is to be settled for all time to come.
18. What did Jesus emphasize to his followers in Matthew 10:8-10, and who can especially appreciate this today?
18 Matthew 10:8-10 describes the attitude of those sharing in the preaching work. God’s Kingdom has to take first place in their life, physical needs are secondary. Why? Jesus says: “For the worker deserves his food.” Our heavenly Father will always take care of those who put their trust in him. And hundreds of thousands of full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses today can testify to this fact.—Numbers 18:30, 31; Deuteronomy 25:4.
19. How is the searching out of deserving ones done today, and under whose direction?
19 Jesus next instructs: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving, and stay there until you leave.” (Matthew 10:11) Deserving of what? Deserving of the privilege of entertaining this servant of Jehovah and listening to the message of God’s Kingdom. Of course, back then the disciples would probably have stayed in the home of that deserving person and used such as a base while they combed the rest of the territory to find other deserving ones. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses follow a similar procedure. They spend millions of hours and expend much effort in searching out deserving ones in various territories. Then, when these are found, the Witnesses have great happiness in revisiting those householders and explaining God’s Word to them. Thus, today, Jesus is skillfully shepherding other sheeplike ones to his right side of favor.—Matthew 25:31-33.
20. How does a deserving household experience the peace wished upon it by the Kingdom preacher?
20 “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it.” (Matthew 10:12, 13) “May this house have peace” was a common greeting in Jesus’ day. (Luke 10:5) The angels sang at the time of Jesus’ birth: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:14) A deserving household experienced this foretold peace by accepting the disciples’ Kingdom message. Today, the Kingdom good news has the same effect. It brings people into peaceful relations with God through Jesus Christ, and it also brings peace among fellow believers.—2 Corinthians 5:20, 21; Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 4:3.
21. Why is the yeartext for 1986 so appropriate?
21 During the 1986 calendar year, the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the earth will be displaying the yeartext drawn from Luke 9:60: “Go . . . , declare abroad the kingdom of God.” What a fine reminder and incentive this will be for all of God’s true ministers to share regularly in preaching God’s Kingdom! Yes, that Kingdom has been here since 1914! It is God’s instrument in the hands of his Messianic King for crushing all of Satan’s worldly kingdoms. No wonder, then, that the Kingdom of God should be of prime importance in the life of every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We know that this means our salvation to life!—1 Timothy 4:16.
How Would You Answer?
□ How long-standing and secure is Jehovah’s kingship?
□ What universal issue now needs to be settled?
□ What must all of Jesus’ followers be prepared to do?
□ Why is the expression “Jehovah himself has become king” more meaningful today?
□ What purpose will be served by the 1986 yeartext?
[Picture on page 12]
Matthew left everything behind and followed Jesus